Title: Ghosts In Westchester

Author: Dandelion (Dandelion@aol.com)

URL:http://jenali.hispeed.com/dandelion/index.htm

Notes: The Alchemy Arc is Dandelion's own little alter-continuity that breaks off shortly after the Revolution storylines in the X-books.

Chronologically, the stories go in the following order:

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine. They belong to Marvel Entertainment. This is not for profit.

I have to thank the denizens of #kjcorner for some timely help when I asked as I wrote this fic. I also have to send a gargantuan thank-you to Ali who was absolutely instrumental in helping me deal with Logan.

Ali, couldn't have done it without you.


Jean

The first time I came to this mansion in Westchester I was ten years old. I thought it was the biggest, grandest, finest house I had ever seen in my life.

The second time I came to this mansion I was sixteen and still thought it was a pretty terrific place. Though, I admit most of my attention was drawn immediately to the young men who were suddenly my schoolmates.

I can't count the number of times I've left Westchester only to come back and feel that thrill of coming home. There were times I walked away and truly believed that I would never consider it home again.

It was never true until returning from Moscow.

I wasn't as though I suddenly came to consider Moscow my home. No, it was more a sort of purgatory. Even that's a harsh term. I went to Moscow as one person and came out another. I went in a widow and came out a woman again. That city helped me live again, really live.

There was a sort of sick sensation in my gut as we pulled onto Graymalkin Lane. A feeling of 'I don't want to be here anymore, this place hurts too much.'

And I wasn't the only one feeling it.

I could see similar expressions of varying intensity on the faces of my teammates. I'm sure that we all questioned the wisdom of coming back even though we all knew that it was time we did.

The timing was pretty bad, an unusual thing for Remy, but I don't know if there ever would have been a good time for this.

It was the middle of December and Westchester had that barren, grim, old snow look about it. Not only that but there was that feeling of Christmas in the air that was almost taunting. 'Merry Christmas! Remember all the ones you love that aren't here! Suckers!'

Then Remy, the man I chose to live again with, promptly decided to start killing himself with work the moment we got back. Remy was as comfortable with leadership as a person could be in Moscow. Even Nathan had finally admitted that he was doing a good job and was accepting his ideas without immediately ripping them to shreds.

Remy and I started a relationship in Moscow. I wasn't really sure what to call it. I had the sneaking suspicion that it was starting to grow into something more than either of us was expecting. We were just sleeping together, that was all. It was just... well, I liked being with him. He could make me laugh and for a long time I didn't think I'd ever be capable of that again.

He made me feel again. It wasn't just feelings of desire or lust, although there was plenty of that. But also, happiness, joy, and any myriad of emotions that I had locked up because feeling one would make me feel others and I didn't want that after I accepted that Scott was really gone.

With Remy, it was okay to feel things again. And after about seven months of talking with him and training with him and eating and drinking and walking with him he knew me well enough to see that I was ready to start letting those feelings out.

That release was cathartic, how could it not be? And didn't it make sense that after such a release I would reach out to this man who made it possible and hold onto him with everything I had? Wouldn't it make sense that I would want to feel everything with him?

One night became two. Two became three. Three continued on and before either of us knew it we were involved. Instead of looking to him for release I looked to him for other reasons. A soft touch in the night, a whisper of greeting in the morning, a gentle kiss by the riverbank, all of these moments wrapped together and becoming a relationship. He was my friend, a person I could talk to, rage at, laugh with. He was someone I could love when the stars came out. He was all of these things to me in Moscow.

He stopped when we came back to Westchester.

The minute we drove through the gates he seemed to be trying to turn himself into the ultimate leader. He was working with Hank, or Nate, or Forge or Rogue or he was in New Orleans handling Guild responsibilities. It was disconcerting to say the least. I had become used to the way Remy ran things in Moscow, which was in a very hands off kind of manner. Since returning to Salem Center he was involved with so many things that I barely had the chance to talk to him. Our conversations went something like:

"Remy, can I talk to you?"

"Uh, can it wait? I'm due somewhere else."

And he was gone before I could answer. The man can move fast when he wants to.

Now, I would be lying if I said I wasn't feeling neglected but that was not the main problem I had. He was avoiding me but not because he wasn't interested anymore. He sent enough of those clandestine sultry looks my way to pretty much nip that thought in the bud. The main problem was that I could see him working himself into the ground. He wasn't eating and he didn't look like he was sleeping that much either. He looked horrible. And Remy does not wear horrible well.

So, obviously, it was up to me to smack some sense into him.

The trick was finding him. Remy's bio-kinetic signature makes him difficult to read so I really have to look for him. However, if he's not in the best condition it makes things a little easier for me. A little bit of subtly clever mind wandering and I found him in the woods.

There is a little clearing in the woods that we fixed up with some benches a few years ago. It's a favorite trysting place even though everyone pretends otherwise. Remy was seated on one of the benches dozing with a cigarette clamped firmly between his lips. He must have come because it was a little out of the way and he believed he wouldn't be bothered. It was mid-day and trysting didn't normally happen until sunset. Not that there seemed to be all that much of it going on right now.

I sat next to him and removed the cigarette waking him in the process. I took a long drag from it and looked around the clearing. It was a typical mid-December in that the snow was thick everywhere. It was the intangibles that had changed. I knew he felt it, too. I glanced at him as I put the cigarette out.

"'Sup, Jeanne?"

I don't know what kind of spin he puts on my name that makes it sounds a million times more exotic than it is but I do like it. I smiled at him. "I was kind of wondering that myself, Remy. I've scarcely seen you since we got back."

He grunted softly. "Yeah... it's been hectic."

I shifted on the bench so I could look at him pushing his hair out of his eyes. "Hectic, nothing. You haven't stopped since you got here and I'm getting worried about you."

"Lots to do," he shrugged, not meeting my eyes.

"Delegate," I told him firmly. "You look awful. You can't miss Moscow that much."

It was an attempt at humor but the truth was we did miss Moscow. We missed that old city a lot. Westchester was still painful.

"I do miss it, Green-Eyes," he murmured, fingers brushing against my back. "Not so many ghosts there, neh?"

I leaned against him, tucking my head in the crook of his neck and slipping my arms around his waist, squeezing him tight. "It's just a matter of getting used to it."

I heard him sigh deeply. "Oui," he agreed half-heartedly.

"Listen," I pulled away. "You're just pessimistic because you're over-worked and stressed out. Come on," I stood up, tugging on his arm to get him to follow. "You're coming with me and I'm making you breakfast."

"Woman, you're trying to kill me." I could hear the hint of humor in his voice.

"Fine, I'll pour you a bowl of Cheerios. And then you're going to sleep," I clapped my hands around his face as he started to protest. "You are going to sleep if I have to crack you over the head with a pot, you got me?"

Remy didn't put up much of a fight and as we entered the mansion I could hear his stomach growl.

I sat him down in a chair and started raiding the cupboards. "What are you doing, Remy? What's the point of this schedule you're keeping?"

He yawned loudly behind me. "Trying to prove something, Jeanne, can't you tell?"

"Right." Like I couldn't figure that out. The question was what was he trying to prove? I set the bowl in front of him. "Eat."

He did so. I sat across the table from him and leaned my cheek on my fist. "You have to start delegating again, Remy," I told him again. He looked so frazzled I couldn't be sure if he was even processing what I said. "You did it in Moscow."

"Dat was Moscow."

I sighed. "So? It was working. Just because we're back in Westchester doesn't mean that things have to change from how they were in Moscow."

He looked me dead in the eye. "Don't they?"

I felt myself stiffen at that. Was he trying to gently dump me? I hadn't thought so previously but that remark made me uncertain. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," he rubbed his eyes. "Jus' tired, I guess."

I believed he was tired. He looked it. But I didn't believe that his comment was just nothing. "Finish eating, then I'm taking you to bed."

He couldn't hide the playful smirk at that and the gleam in his eye was one I knew well. "Dat's only gonna make me more tired, Jeanne."

Okay, so maybe he wasn't trying to dump me. "To sleep, you cretin."

"Right, right," he slouched over his bowl and kept eating.

I stood up and went to the fridge, rooting around for something to drink. He was being difficult but he wasn't acting like what was going on between us was something he wanted to stop. I briefly marveled at how relieved I felt about that but filed it away to deal with later. For right now, Remy needed my attention. He just seemed off and I wanted to get to the root of it.

A loud clatter startled me out of my thoughts and I whirled to find Remy blinking at the table. The cereal bowl was upended like it had been knocked over. There was a bit of a mess on the table.

"What happened?"

"I dozed off."

"All right," I shut the fridge and pulled him out of his chair. "You're going to bed. This is past stupid." I looped his arm over my shoulders and wrapped my arm around his waist. "Honestly, Remy, I don't like playing a mother hen. When you're back in your right mind I'm going to ream you for this."

"Sure thing, chere," he sighed. "'Course, dat might take a while." His steps stuttered as we past the stairs and headed outside. "Exactly where are you taking me to sleep?"

"The boathouse."

He pulled away from me then, shaking his head. "No, that's too far away. I'll just go upstairs."

I frowned at him. "It being far away is exactly why I want you there. No one can bother you. Now, come on."

He stepped out of my reach. "No, really, it's okay. Actually, I'm not really dat tired."

What the hell is he doing? I looked at him. He was exhausted and I couldn't think of one reason why he'd be so stubborn about sleeping in the boathouse... except for the most obvious. Shit, I should have seen this before, how obtuse can I be? My voice dropped to a low tone. "Remy, come with me, please. I want you to rest and then we need to talk." I tried to tell him with my eyes how serious I was.

His gaze wavered. "Dere is a lot of talking dat needs to be done."

"I know. Come with me to the boathouse. Get some rest and we'll get things straightened out, okay?"

He sighed. I looked in his eyes and held them. I didn't think about how much I wanted to put off the serious talks. I didn't think about his eyes, or his hands, or the way he... I bit off the thought before it went any further.

He sighed heavily and relented. "All right, Jeanne. I'll come with you." He put his arm around my shoulders again and we walked out.

The boathouse was sparse. I had packed up most of Scott's things as well as the things we had shared and shipped them to Alaska. I had meant to go up there and deal with all of it alone when I was able. Unfortunately, I hadn't been ready by the time Remy called me to Venice and since then... well, I would have to make time soon. I had a few things to deal with now that I hadn't considered a year ago. The kitchen I had purposely left under-stocked so I'd have an excuse to go back up to the mansion.

Now, it wasn't so lonely. Remy was there and even though I wasn't thinking about making love to him, his presence alone made that house a little less lonely, a little less haunted. He shed his coat and kicked off his shoes eyeing the couch as though he were preparing to flop down on it. I shoved him towards the bedroom.

"A real bed, Remy," I said firmly.

He scowled at me. I knew I was being somewhat heartless. I could see he was uncomfortable being here for the same reason that I was uncomfortable being alone here. But we had to face this, both of us, and I preferred to do it together.

I saw him pull his shirt off over his head in the bedroom and drape it on the footboard. I felt my heart speed up at the sight of those long, lean muscles rippling under his skin. He still bore scratches on his back from the last time we'd made love. That was three weeks ago.

He stood in the middle of the bedroom, staring at the bed. It looked to me like he was uncertain what to do next. He shook his head and began to undo his pants. He was wearing boxer shorts that I bought him. I had found a horribly tacky makeshift kiosk near Red Square and bought a pair of boxer shorts with little St. Basil's Cathedrals stamped all over them.

Remy had loved them. He'd laughed as I pulled them out of the bag and waved them proudly in the air. He modeled them for me, striking campy poses and wiggling his butt at me. He was adorable.

"Nice shorts, hotshot," I offered playfully.

"Jesus!!" Remy very nearly jumped right out of said shorts. He whirled around to glare at me. "What are you trying to do, woman, scare me to death?"

"Quit bitching and get in bed," I tossed back. "It's not going to bite you." But I might. Remy looked too delicious standing there is so little. I shook my head slightly to get the thoughts out of them. Now was not the time for it. He needed to be coherent before we pursued what was going on between us.

He scowled at me then jerked the covers back and clamored in. I went and pulled the covers over him.

"Why do you have to be so stubborn?" I whispered.

He shrugged, blinking at me. The bed was already casting its spell over him. His eyes drooped and finally shut and he sighed deeply, settling into the pillows. In a matter of minutes his breaths were deep and even.

Watching him sleep I felt my own tension drain out of me. I pulled a chair away from my vanity and set it next to the bed. I sat there and watched him for a long time. I didn't think about anything, I didn't reason with myself, I just watched him.

It was wonderful.

I gently brushed some wayward strands of hair away from his eyes and took his hand in mine. I studied his hand. How many tears had these hands dried from my eyes in these last nine months? These hands had shown me how to fight. These hands had nursed wounds and massaged stressed out muscles. These hands left trails of fire on my skin.

Remy sighed softly and I felt a strange burning in my eyes. I had walked into Venice feeling little for this man other than a vague mistrust and a healthy dose of uncertainty then somewhere along the line he became the person I could confide in. He became someone who meant something to me.

I had missed seeing him in my bed. I had missed talking to him. I was angry at him for avoiding me these past few weeks after returning to Westchester.

I rubbed my eyes and went into the other room. I figured I'd just keep busy until he woke up. There was no use getting maudlin over how confusing things were. I rearranged my medicine cabinet and found an old pack of cigarettes there. I chuckled softly as I noted that two were left.

Remy had made the boathouse his home after he came back from Antarctica and Scott and I were in Alaska. I had found this pack in the cupboard over the stove. I guessed it was the emergency pack but I smoked almost all of it right after Scott died. Then I saved them for a rainy day.

I looked out the window. It wasn't raining but I sure could use a cigarette. I breezed through the bedroom and into the living room digging out matches along the way. I looked out the window at the snow on the ground. Christmas was coming up. My second without Scott. I don't even remember last Christmas. I was so filled with anger and grief and misery I could barely function.

I had no idea how to even prepare for this one. Would I be spending it with Remy? Would I stay here? Go home to my parents? I hadn't a clue where I should even begin. I lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply staring out the window some more. It's not like I wasn't used to coping with weirdness in my life. Hardly. The constants had just changed and that was what was throwing me off. I could always count on Scott and Charles and they were both gone, neither was likely to return. Now, I had the team I had become so close to in Moscow. It wasn't as though they were strangers to me before but spending nine months in Moscow developed deeper bonds between us. I had two of my oldest friends in Hank and Ororo, I had my son Nathan, and my new lover, Remy.

But was Remy just a lover? He was a friend, too. He had become a friend first. A friend I felt affection for before I had taken him to my bed that night. I rearranged my books in alphabetical order and considered making an index but decided I didn't want to be anal. I went and alphabetized my spice rack instead.

I was just finishing up with that task when Remy came shuffling out of the bedroom. He blinked at me a couple of times then fished out some juice from the fridge. He didn't even bother with a glass and I considered yelling at him for it but decided that one of our mock fights wasn't what I really wanted right then. "Nice nap?"

He nodded and put the juice back. He hadn't gotten dressed yet, he was just puttering around in his underwear and looking utterly desirable.

"You haven't kissed me in three weeks."

He blinked at me again.

"I want to know why."

He ran his fingers through his hair and shook his head.

I smacked him on the arm.

"Hey!"

"So he can talk!" I was getting angry. Why was he acting this way?!

"Yeah, I can fuckin' talk!"

"Then start doing it," I responded. "Ever since we got back to the States you're more a stranger to me than you were before Venice. I thought we could talk to each other. I thought, if nothing else, we could count on that."

"Well, it's the 'if nothing else' that's got me a little confused right now."

"Tell me about it."

He looked at me for a long time with those red eyes. Those eyes that smoldered and burned and hid all sorts of complexities in their depths. I would look at those eyes and want to make things as simple as I could for him. Everything else was so puzzling; I just wanted us to be simple. We were rapidly approaching complicated ourselves, though, and I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to stop it.

"It's being back here, Jeanne, you know," he began doubtfully.

"Pretend I don't," I said. "You told me that your power makes telepathy difficult. You said that we'd have to communicate like normal people. So start communicating. Talk to me, Remy LeBeau."

"Dis ain't Moscow," he told me. "It ain't so easy to pretend like everyt'ings fine here. There aren't any excuses here, Jeanne. We can't say it was a battle, or springtime, or the vodka, or even Moscow itself. And there are ghosts here. They hover around and peek at you from everywhere. I think about you all the time and I feel those ghosts frowning at me like I was committing some mortal sin."

I felt my shoulders sag a little. "I know," I put one hand to my forehead. "I know. But... dammit I don't want excuses, Remy. It wasn't a battle or springtime or vodka or Moscow. It was us. We bumped into each other and held on for dear life and I'm not sorry. I'm not sorry at all."

"But?"

A warm, tingling sensation bubbled up somewhere deep inside of me. Remy had been trying to give me an out. He was standing there still offering it to me. Some of that uncertainty that I had been carrying around about us faded. He was willing to let go if that's what I wanted but I could see in his eyes that it wasn't what he would choose to do. I had to make sure that he knew that I didn't want to end this thing between us, either. "There is no but. We're not holding on for dear life anymore. I like being with you. You've given me something that I didn't think I'd have again. I'm not ashamed of it and I know that these ghosts would approve."

"You must not be seeing the same ghosts as me."

I laughed. "Don't be silly, Remy. I see ghosts everywhere. This place is full of them. It's throwing me off, too. Mainly because I used to get so much comfort from just being here and it isn't working this time. My comfort isn't here in this place it's with you and Hank and Ororo and Nathan. And you've been avoiding me since we got here and it's driving me crazy!"

He looked chagrined. "I figured you wanted time to sort everything out."

"You wanted time to do it yourself."

He sighed. "You're right. But I thought you needed it, too."

"Well, I did," I conceded. "But, next time will you tell me when you're trying to be thoughtful by withholding yourself from me so I can tell you to stuff it?"

He snorted.

"Kiss me, Remy."

One of his eyebrows lifted but a smile started to tug at the corner of his mouth.

"Kiss me, dammit, I'm tired of this."

He leaned towards me, reaching out with both hands to smooth my hair, then bent his head to mine. His lips playfully nipped at mine before pressing against and then opening them.

I heard the blood pounding in my ears. My pulse quickened and my temperature rose. His tongue slid into my mouth and I met it with mine shifting my arms around his waist, and slipping my hands under the waistband of his shorts to caress the curves of his cheeks.

His soft groan indicated his pleasure at that as well as the reaction I felt against my hip.

God, I missed this. I missed his touch and smoky kisses. I pulled away and took his hand, leading him back to the bedroom. I turned away at the door, removing my sweater and jeans as I moved towards the bed. I perched on the edge of the mattress wearing as little as he. He hovered in the doorway, that uncertainty back on his face.

"Jeanne, you sure 'bout dis?" He wore that haunted look again.

I nodded, holding his eyes with my own. "Remy, you belong here."

He came to me swiftly then, pressing me back onto the bed. It had been three weeks since we had been together and we reacquainted ourselves with each other's bodies. I rejoiced in the feel of him, his breath, his touch, the very scent of him. I spiraled down into him remembering again the connection we shared in the Muscovian nights. I savored it all and the haunted loneliness that had settled in since returning here to Westchester dissipated like a mist in sunlight. We were real. The solace and the friendship we shared was what mattered. Everything else melted into the golden fire we created between us.

After we had spent ourselves I rested my head on his chest. "I don't want to hide this anymore, Remy."

"Sure?"

I looked up at him. "We should have told the others when we realized this was more than just a couple of nights."

"You're probably right," he agreed, gently brushing a stray lock of hair from my eyes. "I guess we weren't really recognizing it was more than dat. We just took what we had."

"You look tired, again," I said, kissing him.

"You wear me out, woman," he grinned. "But yeah, I am still tired. I's too busy feeling all tense about us. Now that I know where we're at it's all catching up again."

"So go to sleep," I got out of bed and began to dress. "I'm going to go talk to Nathan."

Remy groaned and covered his face with his hands. "Give me some warning when he's on his way to kill me, hm?"

"He's not going to kill you, Remy," I swatted his leg.

"Not if you warn me he won't."

"Go to sleep, you big baby."


Logan

Jean had been hard to isolate since she returned to Westchester. I wasn't pressing her to be alone with me. No matter what I wanted I knew she wouldn't appreciate it if I jumped on her as soon as she walked through the gates.

I hadn't seen her in almost a year, except for that brief trip to Moscow about nine months ago. I backed off after Scott died. She wasn't available for much of anything then. She needed the time to deal with it all in her own way. Everyone knew that. I certainly did.

But I still tried to keep tabs on her. Scott dying the way he did... Scott dying period... it shattered her. All I wanted was to know that she'd be okay. I needed her to be okay. So I stayed close those first six months visiting her at her parents house or in Alaska when she went to take care of the house there.

Then she went off to Venice to meet LeBeau with Cable, 'Ro and Hank. From there she went to Moscow. Our group wandered over there early on in their stay. Jeannie looked as beautiful and tough as ever. I wish to hell I'd had more of a chance to talk to her. Things went down that took all of our attention and then Rogue brought us back stateside. After that all I had to go on were the calls they made to update us on what was going on. I talked to 'Ro to make sure Jean was doing all right. I talked with Jean herself at times. She shuttered her reactions from me.

I'd be lying if I said that didn't bother me. I was used to being able to read Jeannie like a book. After Slim died the only way I could read her when she was working so hard to hide what she was feeling was by sense of smell. Talking to her over a vid-phone or a regular phone didn't give me the chance to use that sense. I had to take my queues from her and she wasn't giving me any.

When she came back to Westchester with the others she still kept her distance. She walked around the grounds like she was wishing she were any where but here. I guess I understood. Everything was a reminder. It was a little hard for everyone much less for Jeannie. She lost more than most of the others. I let her have her distance.

But when I saw her jogging up to the mansion glowing like a star I couldn't stay away. Maybe I should've known something was up right then. She hadn't looked like that in a long time. But she looked so beautiful at that moment that I didn't want to think about anything else.

I intercepted her before she reached the front steps. "Hey Jeannie."

She smiled at me but seemed to guard herself a bit. Her eyes flickered towards the door anxiously. I tried to figure out a way to let her know I wasn't trying to push. I took a deep breath trying to put my thoughts together just right.

And the smells washed over me.

There was the musky scent of sex mixed with Jean's distinctive fiery aroma. It was the other odor that hit me in the gut.

Spices and sweat, and as conspicuously male as an alpha wolf. The Cajun.

Her eyes met mine and I knew she knew what I had just been confronted with. Those emerald eyes held mine solidly, refusing to look away, refusing to be embarrassed or ashamed.

I almost didn't trust my own voice. "Can we talk, Jeannie?"

Her eyes moved towards the door again. "I was just going to talk to Nathan."

I shrugged. "Not a problem. I'll wait at the boathouse for you." It was a challenge. It was as clear as I could manage. 'Talk to me or I'll go talk to him. Your choice, Red.'

She sighed and I could practically taste him on her breath. "All right. Where do you want to talk?"

"Walk with me."

She nodded and came with me as I walked towards the woods. I didn't know exactly how to broach this. I didn't think I could even make the words form in my mouth. They scarcely formed in my head.

We walked for quite a while in silence. Finally I came out with it. "The Cajun?"

"Yes."

I glanced at her but she was looking straight ahead. Her voice was low and steady. I felt a tornado of emotions whirling around in my gut. Not Jeannie... not with him. I wanted to see some sort of regret about her, something that would tell me that this was just a meaningless fling. Anything to assure me of the fact that Jeannie hadn't really meant to be with him. The scents of the two of them mixed together, fire and spice and sex... female and male combined to create something so primal and beautiful I wanted to tear my heart out at the thought of it being them. "Jesus, Jeannie, it smells fresh."

She sighed. "It is."

"At least you ain't tryin' to hide it."

"I wouldn't insult you like that."

I turned sharply to face her. "Am I supposed to take this as anything but an insult?"

"This has nothing to do with you, Logan," she replied firmly. "This isn't meant to insult you or please you or anything. It's between Remy and me."

She was right, of course, because if we really wanted to put things in perspective this didn't have anything to do with me. But she was wrong, too. It had a lot to do with me. It had to do with me and Jean and everyone else that was a part of this group. This was going to affect everything.

She could see that, couldn't she? She wasn't blind. Jeannie could always see what was really going on.

"You talk like this is something serious between the two of you," I murmured.

Her eyes finally left mine and looked up into the trees. "Serious... well," a small smile played at her lips. "I don't know if it's there yet. Maybe it is. We aren't sure."

"We?"

"That's right," she nodded, then turned her eyes to me. "We've been involved for a couple of months now, Logan."

"With LeBeau?!"

Anger flashed her in eyes. "What is so unbelievable about that?"

"How much time ya got?"

"Look, I'm not stupid enough to think that everyone is going to accept this without question," she tossed her hair over her shoulder in an irritated gesture. "But maybe I'm hoping that the people who love us will give us the benefit of the doubt."

The benefit of the doubt? Was she kidding? There were too many things wrong here. This was LeBeau. Even on his best day he gave the impression that he'd as soon sell you out as watch your back. That was his game, to always keep you guessing.

I could appreciate it when he was just a teammate but I'd seen what his game had done to Rogue. I couldn't let him do the same thing to Jean.

"So what's the attraction?" I folded my arms across my chest.

Her eyes snapped. "Don't."

"Don't what?" I asked with all the innocence I could muster. It sounded like a mockery. How fitting. This entire conversation was a joke. The entire situation was a joke. LeBeau, for Chrissakes.

"Don't go there," Jean's voice lowered to something close to a growl.

"Hey, I'm curious," I shrugged. "I'm more than curious, I'm mystified." And everything started to snap into place. I'd seen the way she looked at him and the way he looked at her. I couldn't believe I hadn't realized it before. I couldn't believe I'd been blind to what was right in front of me. Anger boiled within me. Anger at Jeannie, at LeBeau, at myself, at everything.

At losing her again.

She was shaking her head, green eyes almost begging me to stop. Everything about her was screaming at me to not say another word. Jean always knew me so well. I guess she could see I was heading somewhere dangerous.

"LeBeau doesn't really have a lot in common with Scott, does he?" I raised one fist and snapped my fingers. "Ah, except for one thing... now."

Her cheeks were flushed and she nearly quivered with anger. "Logan..."

I kept going. "He's a leader now, isn't he? Is that all there is to it? Take the helm and get you, too?"

She closed her eyes. There was a sick sensation in my stomach seeing her like this and knowing it was me that was doing it. Something wouldn't let me stop. Some piece of pride too wounded to back down. A heart too broken to not fight back.

"This is some revelation, Red. Here I thought there was more to you than that."

She opened her eyes and finally spoke. "What do you mean by that?"

I shrugged. "Just that if I'd known that all it took to win you was take over the position of leader I'd have done it myself. Maybe I would have found you in my bed."

Her lips tightened and her chin lifted. She was angry. I could smell it coming off of her in waves. I could see her debating what to say or do in response to that. I wanted her to. I wanted her anger to come back at me. I could deal with that. That was the Jeannie I knew. I wanted her so much to be the Jeannie I knew.

But she stopped quivering and just looked at me for a moment. Then she turned her back on me and walked away.

I could have gone after her.

I could have apologized.

I could have.

No. I couldn't. I let her walk away from me with my own hurtful words still fresh in her mind and I could smell salty tears as she disappeared from view.


Ororo

"Ororo?"

I glanced up from my cup of tea and smiled. "Hello, Jean." She looked anxious, angry and a little sad. "Is something wrong?"

Her brow furrowed and she sighed softly. "It's nothing that won't work itself out in time," she seemed to shake herself. "Listen, Remy's at the boathouse. I think he'd probably like it if you went to see him."

"At the boathouse?" I felt my eyebrows raise.

"I took him down there so he'd get some sleep," a dark look came across her features. "He's been running himself ragged, the jerk."

I smiled. "Well, I'm glad you saw to it he get some rest, and I'll go to see him as soon as I finish with this," I gestured to my teacup.

She nodded. "Have you seen Nathan?"

"I believe he is in the lab with Henry."

She nodded again and hurried off. I finished my tea and rinsed the cup out. It seemed to me that Jean and Remy were ready to go public.

It was about time.


Logan was lurking around the boathouse as I drifted down from the sky. He looked up at me as I approached. "Hey Ro."

"Logan," I studied my old friend. He seemed very angry but also sad. Something had happened between Logan and Jean, that was obvious, and it did not appear to have been good.

"Tell me something, Ro," Logan continued to glower at the boathouse. "Who do you think Slim woulda wanted Jeannie to move on with?"

So it was about that. "I think he'd want her to be with whomever made her happy."

He swore under his breath. "So what brings you out here, Ro? Jeannie's in the mansion."

"I know, I came to see Remy."

His gaze snapped to me. "You know?"

"I know Remy is here," I replied evenly. "Jean said she brought him here to get some sleep."

"Right," he muttered. "I'm goin' out for a bit. I think you and me need to talk about your boy when I get back, Ro."

"If you wish," I nodded.

"Yeah. I wish." He disappeared into the woods.

I stared after him for several moments feeling helpless. Logan was hurting and I knew why but I couldn't do anything for him. A large part of me didn't want to do anything. I sighed. It was hard to know what to do.

I went to the boathouse door and knocked.

"S'open!"

When I entered I saw Remy standing near one of the windows looking out at the woods Logan had disappeared into.

"'Lo Stormy," he smiled at me but continued his watch.

"I have asked you repeatedly not to call me that," I responded as usual, closing the door. "And I don't believe Jean would appreciate your smoking in her home." Jean probably didn't mind but I felt obligated to keep up the pretense until Remy called an end to the game.

"She's used to it," he shrugged. "But I know you don' like 'em much." He left the window and put out the cigarette waving his hand to help dissipate the smoke. "What brings you here?"

"Jean seemed to think we should spend some time together."

He stopped, looked at me, then smiled. "C'est vrai," he gestured to the couch. "Sit down, 'Roro. I got somethin' to say."

I did so.

He pulled a chair around the coffee table and set it so he was facing me He leaned his elbows on his knees and studied his hands. "You and me, we been friends a long time."

"Best friends," I corrected him gently.

His head jerked up at that and the grateful expression in his eyes almost brought tears to mine. He beamed a smile at me. "Best friends," he concurred, then heaved a heavy sigh. "You know Jean and I are involved."

"I know."

"Figured you must. You always been hard to fool."

"We all know, Remy," I told him. "Henry and Nathan as well."

He didn't seem particularly easy with that bit of information. "Yeah, I guess you all had to know."

"We never talked about it, though," I continued. "For some reason we felt we weren't supposed to. We were waiting for you and Jean to come out with it. Why didn't you?" I could hear the wounded tone in my voice and Remy flinched slightly at the sound of it. This was the issue that concerned me the most. They were among friends and yet they had hidden this. It had hurt. It still did.

Remy looked thoughtful. "The first couple of times we were together we didn't think it was going to last. We just figured it was two friends working closely together falling into bed. We just didn't think it was anything worth talking about.

"But then, I'd find myself at her door in the middle of the night or she'd come to mine and it stopped being nothing and started being something. We just weren't sure what. And we couldn't tell anybody about it when we weren't even sure what we'd be telling you. We thought if we kept it between us we'd be able to figure out what it was and then we could tell everyone."

"Does this mean you've figured out what it is between you?"

He offered me a roguish grin. "No, but there are a few things that made a difference."

"Such as?"

"Such as leavin' Moscow and coming back here to all the memories and finding out she still wants to be with me."

I felt my heart squeeze. "You didn't think she'd want you anymore?"

"C'mon Ro," he frowned at me. "We're all grown-ups here. We know the spell a foreign city can cast on you when you're away from your home and the troubles you left there."

"We were there nine months, Remy," I insisted. "That's hardly a winsome vacation that sweeps you away from the real world."

"Aw, Stormy, get real," he burst out. "We only stayed there as long as we did because none of us wanted to come back. We wanted to pretend that everything was status quo. None of us wanted to come back to no Xavier and an extra headstone in the graveyard."

I studied Remy for several moments. There was a haunted expression in his eyes that I had only seen there a few times. It only appeared when he was dealing with his darkest demons. "You didn't want to leave either."

"No. I didn't."

"Why?"

"Because I felt like I was doing something right. I felt like I had proven myself to all of you." Remy scrubbed his eyes with his fingers. "I didn't want to come back here and just be a traitor again."

"Now you listen to me!" Before I even knew it I had clasped his head between my hands, forcing him to look at me. "You are not 'just' anything, least of all a traitor!" My voice was surprisingly raw. "Everyone's come to terms with that part of your past."

"Not everybody," he whispered.

"Your team has," I assured him.

"It's going to be brought up again when they all find out I'm with Jean."

I pressed my forehead against his with a sigh. "You're right. It will." I stayed like that for a moment before pulling back and settling on the couch again. "But I know you and Henry and Nathan do now as well."

"You'll pardon if I'm a little skeptical 'bout Nate being an out and out supporter of my sleeping with his mother."

"Nathan might surprise you."

"Well, that'd do it." Remy sighed. "Ro, you know no one's going to be cheering about this. It's bad enough I took Scott's position as leader but his woman too? Hell, if it were anyone else I'd be sneering at 'em, too."

"So stop seeing her."

Remy's head jerked up at that and I could see him bite off an angry retort. "You testing me, Stormy?"

I smiled and teased him. "Moi?"

He snorted but grinned as he shook his head.

"Are you in love with her, Remy?"

He didn't look at me for a moment but I could see he was seriously considering the question. "Not yet."

My smile widened. "That's a good place to be, I think. I'm glad you aren't rushing into it."

"I learned my lesson there, Ro," he muttered darkly.

"Mmm, speaking of which," I said. "When are you going to tell Rogue?"

He shrugged.

"You are going to tell her."

"Dat girl don't wanna hear anyt'ing what comes out of my mouth," Remy sniffed, his anger coloring his accent. "I've tried contacting her. I've tried writing. I get nothing from her. Maybe I'm not in such a hurry now."

"Remy," I looked at him sternly.

He squirmed slightly but shook his head. "I'm not making any promises, Ro."

I could see that was all I was going to get from him on that subject. I didn't necessarily like it but it wasn't up to me. I hoped he would talk to Rogue himself but those two were currently locked in a battle of wounded pride and neither was prepared to take a step back. Yet.

Remy got up from the chair and picked through the pocket of his coat. "You got any place you need to be, 'Ro?"

"Not immediately," I assured him, craning my neck to catch a glimpse of what he was looking for.

He brandished a deck of cards. "You ready to play?"

"Only if you're ready to lose."

"You got quite an ego there, Stormy," he gestured to the dining table.

I stood up grinning and took a seat at the table collecting the cards in my hand as he dealt them. "I thought I told you to stop calling me that."


Nate

Hank had asked me to help him rebuild his files on Stryfe once we got back to Westchester. Since Stryfe instigated the Legacy Virus and Hank's lot in life was to find the cure and I was the one who knew the lunatic better than anyone else it was falling to me to fill in the holes.

Remembering everything about Stryfe was not something I enjoyed but it was good work that Hank was doing so I figured I better put the time in. And if Hank did, in fact, cure Legacy assisted by the work I did here, well, any victory over Stryfe is a good one.

Despite this I was all too eager to set things aside when Jean came into the lab. Her eyes were a little red and I was immediately on guard but she was clamped down tightly and no emotions were leaking out. "Nathan, we need to talk. Privately."

Hank glanced up at that. "I'll leave you two alone then," he cast a longing glance at the program he was working on but started to get up.

"No, no, Hank," Jean spoke up quickly. "We'll leave you to it. But I do want to talk to you later as well so don't wander off."

Jean wanting to talk to me and then Hank in private? There was a small list of things that she could be covering. I really hoped it was that whole mess with Remy so I would have a legitimate reason to finally kill him. Jean's eyes looking a little sad and angry only fueled my desire to get this handled. I scarcely noticed when she gestured me to follow her but I did so automatically. All I could think was: Finally. Finally!

There was a small weight room in the back of the house that was rarely used anymore. Forge had been rebuilding everything since Bastion stripped the place and once he got the Danger Room back online the weight room everyone had put together to stay in shape became a somewhat neglected space. Jean locked the door and sat down on a bench.

"I want to talk to you about this in private because you deserve an explanation more than anyone," Jean began.

"All right," I replied neutrally.

She looked up at me. "You know I've gotten pretty close to Remy in Moscow."

I nodded.

"We worked very closely together for almost the entire time we were there," she looked towards the ceiling. "We got to know each other very well. We all did."

"Sure," I agreed, keeping my tone even. I wished she would get to the point but I got the impression that she was trying to work her way up to the big announcement.

She took a deep breath. "We're involved, Remy and I."

"I know."

She blinked at me. "You know."

I nodded.

"You know?"

I nodded again. I was beginning to enjoy myself.

"How long?"

"Since mid-November."

"NATHAN CHRISTOPHER CHARLES SUMMERS DAYSPRING ASKANI'SON!!!" Jean shot to her feet with a bellow. "You KNEW and you never SAID anything?!!"

"You've sleeping with him for about a month and YOU never said anything?"

"Two and a half!"

"WHAT?!"

"Two and a half months!" Jean perched her hands on her hips. "THAT is how long Remy and I have been sleeping together."

I didn't say anything to that and Jean seemed to lose her indigence after a moment.

She sat down again. "I'm sorry."

"Okay."

"How did you find out?"

"I saw you kissing in the park one day."

"Oh." Her voice was very small. She pinched the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger and grimaced. "This is not how I wanted this conversation to go. I just... I don't know."

"You two haven't been together much since we got back," I hedged. "Is something wrong?"

"Not anymore."

That was like fingernails scraping down a blackboard to me. "You're still with him then?"

"Yes," she looked at me. "I know this isn't easy."

"No. It isn't."

"Remy thinks you're going to kill him."

"Remy's a smart man." I paused. "Well, perhaps getting involved with you wasn't the smartest move but other than that..." I trailed off with a shrug.

"You are not going to kill him and that crack about getting involved with me wasn't nice."

"What am I supposed to feel about this?"

The light in her eyes flickered. "Acceptance?"

"I've had a month to get used to it," I told her grudgingly. "But I'm going to need more time."

"I understand."

"Do you?" I stood up. "There's something wrong with this. You don't belong with Remy you belong with Scott!"

"Scott's gone," she said quietly. "And I do belong with Remy. We fit. He's good to me."

"Oath," I grumbled. There went every argument I could possibly have. "Why do you look like you've been crying then?" I flicked a finger around my eyes to illustrate.

She looked down at her hands. "I had a little argument with Logan."

My blood burned. "About Remy?"

"Can't fool that nose, Nathan. You know that."

I narrowed my eyes. If I couldn't kill Remy I could take out some of my frustration on Logan. I found that the idea cheered me up some. "What did he say?"

"That's between Logan and I," she replied firmly. "And it's off the subject anyway. This is about you and me and how Remy fits into all of this."

"I don't know, Jean. I'm not thrilled about this," I said honestly. "He's not someone I would trust with your heart."

"Why on earth not?"

I thought about that. Remy looked out for all of us in Moscow. He let us do what we wanted but if there was ever anything we stirred up he was there to help deal with it. I realized that I had come to expect him to be watching my back in a fight. "He's not Scott." I said quietly.

Maybe I had come to terms with Remy as a leader and a person but I didn't know how long it would take to come to terms with him as Jean's lover.

I heard her sigh. "No he's not," Jean agreed. "But he's not trying to be. And I don't want him to be." I felt her hand fall on my arm. "I'm not trying to replace your father, Nathan. I could never do that. Scott was... Scott was special. But he's dead now and I had to walk a long way to finally recognize that. He'll always be a part of me and I will always love him. But I've had to learn to live without him. It hasn't been easy."

"Are you in love with Remy?"

A long silence answered my question. I turned my head to stare at her. I couldn't believe what that silence was telling me.

"Nathan, I'm not in love with Remy right now," she told me. "But that is not an impossible thing. I'm with him. I'm committed to him. I want to be with him and I don't want to hide it anymore. We've come to realize that we really have something. We're still not sure what but we want to know."

I couldn't get over the fact that Jean used the term 'we' in reference to her and Remy. It was inconceivable. I had known about them for a month now and I still couldn't quite swallow it. Not to mention that she wasn't going to tell me that falling in love with him was something she wouldn't do.

I had hoped that Remy and Jean weren't serious. I had surreptitiously kept an eye on them in Moscow to see if there were any warning signs that something was amiss between them. I really should have known better. The five of us were forged into a unit, a family within a family during those nine months. Remy had laughingly referred to it as a gestation period on the way back and he wasn't far off. Remy and Jean communicated and respected each other. He never spoke down to her or tried to dissuade her from something she was able to do. He didn't do that to any of us. None of us did.

But he wasn't Scott. And Scott was supposed to be with Jean. That's the way of it. I didn't care if Scott was dead.

I wanted to shoot something.

Badly.

I had left my gun in the lab.

Oath.

"Nathan..."

I shook my head moving away from her. "All right," I shrugged my shoulders. "All right. Now, it's out." I went to the door, resting my hand on the knob.

Her silence screamed in my ears. She wanted something more from me. She wanted it but wasn't asking for it.

Which meant I had to give it to her. I stared at the doorknob. "I want you to be happy, Redd." I looked up to meet her eyes. "That's all I want for you. If Remy does this for you I can't say anything against it. I just need some more time to come to terms."

She nodded and I left. So I couldn't kill Remy. If I had to be completely honest about it I didn't really want to. Remy was all right. If he really made Jean happy, fine. All I had to do was not think about the details between them, which was easy for me to do unless I was talking to Dom. She gained a wicked pleasure from musing about Remy and Jean and what they got up to alone.

I swept those thoughts out of my head and bypassed the lab. I wasn't in the mood for it anymore. I still had some frustration to work off and the thought of Jean's eyes, the redness and the sadness and who put them there, sent me out of the mansion and looking for Logan.

If I had to accept Remy and Jean he had to as well.

I'd make damn sure of it.


Hank

Jean came into the lab after her talk with Nathan and hovered near the door waiting for me to notice her and invite her in.

I knew immediately that this was an important discussion she wished to have. I finished typing out my thoughts into the computer and then turned to wave her in.

She smiled at me as she sat down at one of the tables and leaned her chin on her hand. "How's it going?"

"I'm glad to be back at the lab," I answered, looking around my workspace. "Moscow was nice in that I was able to make a number of contacts at the University but I wasn't able to do as much there."

She nodded. "And now you can."

"Now I can." I watched her as her eyes traveled over the lab and then settled on me.

"I want to talk to you about Remy."

"All right," I nodded. "I've noticed he's looking a little worn and weary these days."

"Yes he has," her brows knit together. "The creep was overworking. I got him to rest. I'll make him eat later."

"It's good that you're looking after him, Jean," I said quietly. "I'm sure the transition hasn't been particularly easy."

She hesitated. "Hank... do you know something?"

"Could you be a little more specific, Jean? I'm afraid that's a trifle vague."

She frowned. "Do you know something about Remy and me?"

Well, I couldn't very well lie could I? "Yes."

She heaved an irritated sigh. "Does Ororo know, too?"

"Yes."

She threw her hands in the air. "So everyone knows. We've been walking around on tiptoe and everyone knows. I don't believe this."

I removed my glasses and looked at her sternly. "I realize your element of surprise has been taken away, Jean, but I have to wonder why you felt it necessary to hide it in the first place. None of us have been particularly pleased with that."

"It wasn't a slight against any of you, Hank," she told me in earnest. "You know that, don't you?"

"I can't quite say for sure, Jean," I replied. "We've known each other for a long time. I would have thought something like that would rank high on the list of things to talk about."

"Even if I didn't know what to say?"

That gave me pause. I don't know if I can recall a time when Jean didn't have the words to say what she felt. She was always an outspoken woman.

"Even if I didn't know if anyone would approve?"

"Jean, how could you say that?"

"You should know better than anyone, Hank. You were there. You were there to watch Scott and I fall in love." She clasped her hands together and pressed them to her forehead. "This has been such a surprise on so many levels. I can't imagine everyone would just shrug their shoulders and carry on as if nothing had changed. I know Remy isn't the poster boy for all things X and I know that some people are going to react to this badly."

"I like Remy, Jean," I assured her.

She slapped her hands down on the table. "Liking him doesn't necessarily mean you like him with me."

"True," I steepled my hands. "Let me ask you, Jean. Would it make a difference?"

"I wouldn't give him up just because some people didn't like it. He's come to mean too much to me," she said fiercely. "But that doesn't mean I don't care if people don't like it. It doesn't mean that it wouldn't hurt if my friends didn't approve."

"You may be asking too much."

"Am I asking too much of you?"

I paused. This was almost too heartbreaking. All I wanted since Scott's death was for Jean to have a little bit of hope and happiness in her life again. Now she did and it pained me to think that it was going to be short-lived. Remy may have proven himself to us but the others? Could I be so dishonest with myself as to think that Warren would take this any way but badly? Or Logan? Or Rogue?

And what did I think? What did I really think about all of this? Could I lie to her and myself and say I didn't have the slightest problem? Could I say that as long as she was happy that was all that mattered to me? Or should I tell the truth? Should I tell her that seeing Jean with anyone but Scott went against everything I had come to count on?

"Am I asking too much of you, Hank?" Jean repeated herself, looking at me with wide green eyes.

"I don't know, yet."

A rueful smile spread across her feature. "I could always count on you to be honest."

"It's nothing against you and it's nothing against Remy," I assured her.

"I know. It's about Scott."

I nodded. "Like you said, I was there."

Her gaze dropped to the table. "Would you believe I've been afraid all of this time?"

"Afraid, Jean?" My voice rose up into the question of its own accord. "You? Certainly not."

"I was afraid to find someone again, you know," she whispered. "I was afraid that if I found someone that it would somehow negate everything I had with Scott." A hard laugh escaped her. "As if that would happen, right?"

"I don't see how."

"I'll explain. Scott was the man I loved and in order to love someone you have to be willing to give. When Scott died I turned into a miser, locking up those precious memories and feelings so I could keep them close to me." She stared at the table top with a furrowed brow. "I didn't want to share those memories because they were mine and all I had left but keeping them so close, so protected, would start to affect them. It would affect them badly.

"You all thought I needed time to get over it. I bet some of the group never believed I'd get over it, right?" She looked up at me for an answer.

"That's probably true."

"I'd just hoard my memories and feelings, right? You know what? Remy wouldn't let me. He made me let them go because that's the only way to keep them. He said he'd done it, too. Regrets and loss had become such a part of his life he figured the only way to hold onto anything was to keep those feelings closed inside. He said he lost an edge, an instinct, a feeling for feelings and because of that he made mistakes that did more damage."

"Like Sinister?"

She nodded. "He wouldn't let me stop feeling, Hank. He wouldn't let me. Maybe the only reason he didn't was because he didn't see my relationship with Scott from its early days. He didn't know the history so he walked in and grabbed a hold of me and wouldn't let me go." She smiled faintly. "I don't love Scott any less because of my relationship with Remy. It's just different, you know?"

I felt stunned. "I know you two spent a lot of time together in Moscow."

"Yeah, we worked on a lot of things together."

"I didn't realize so much happened," I frowned. "Perhaps I just ignored it. One would have to be blind not to have noticed the change in you over the past few months."

"A change for the better?"

My frown turned to a smile. "Well, different."

She chuckled.

"I worried for you after Scott died, Jean. I wasn't sure if you'd ever recover from it. I would have left you alone to deal with it all in your own time." I sighed. "I don't think I would have realized the damage leaving you like that would do until it was too late."

"I know," she reached across the table to grasp my hand in hers. "But I'm okay."

"I can see that," I looked at our hands. "I still... feel unsure."

"It's okay to feel that way, Hank. I did. I still do. This is an uneven road we're all walking down. But... does it make any difference to know that I chose Remy?"

"It makes more of a difference than you might think."

Her smile lit up her face and she kissed my hand. "That means a lot, Hank. You mean a lot."

I grinned and then sobered. "It's not going to be easy, Jean."

"I know."

"But I'm here for you."

Her smile softened. "I know."


Remy

Ororo made me change from poker to gin where the odds were a little more in her favor and the conversation could flow more smoothly. She'd been filling me in on all the goings-on I had been too busy to notice since coming back. Apparently, Rogue and Katie were planning on competing against one another over who could create the best drink and Logan, Nate and Kurt were roped in to be the judges.

I hoped Hank was going to be on call for that one.

Conversation turned to Forge and 'Ro's voice warmed up noticeably. Seemed like they were getting along again. I grinned at that. Stormy deserves to be happy and if Forge is the guy to do it, fine.

Like I had any room to casts aspersions. Maybe in the safety net of 'Ro's affection I could fool myself into thinking that everything was going to go smooth when Jean and I told everyone about us but I couldn't do it for long.

My mind wandered to the object of my affection and I wondered how she was doing. Jean had been gone a while and I didn't like the way Logan had been hanging around outside the house before Stormy showed up.

Not that I thought he'd do anything to her. I just didn't like it.

Jean came through the door then, though, and leaned against it after she shut it. 'Ro and I both looked up. "Hi Ororo," Jean smiled.

"Jean," Stormy's lips twisted into a smug grin. "You're just in time to witness Remy's defeat at my hands."

"You're sure of yourself," I grumbled. I hadn't been paying any attention to the game, though, so it was my own fault.

"Yes," 'Ro replied simply. "I am."

Jean came over to the table, slipping her arms around my neck from behind and dropping a kiss on my cheek. "Hello, cher."

She started calling me that a while back and I have to admit I like it. Jean always did have a good sense of humor. She stayed like that for a while, her cheek pressed against mine, arms hung loosely around my neck and eyeing my cards. "How long have you all been at this?"

"Remy started off with poker," Ororo replied, "but I can only take being beaten so many times before I try to level the field, so to speak."

"So 'Ro comes up wit' dis garden party game," I sniffed. Jean pinched my cheek affectionately.

"No need to prolong your misery," 'Roro grinned, laying her cards down. "Gin."

"Merde. Guess I owe you dinner, huh, Stormy?"

"Stop calling me that," she gathered the cards neatly into a pile. "And yes, you owe me dinner. In the city."

"Right."

"You aren't trying to steal my man, are you 'Ro?" Jean teased.

Ororo paused and looked up at us, her smiled widened. "I wouldn't dream of it." She pushed herself away from the table. "And now, I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave."

Jean straightened, her brow furrowed. "Not on my account, I hope."

"Not at all," 'Ro stood up and hugged Jean tightly. "I'm very happy for the both of you but I know very well what a third wheel is. Besides, I promised Logan some of my time this evening. I think I have kept him waiting long enough."

Jean's face was expressionless as she nodded at that.

I didn't like that at all. Something had happened between Logan and Jean that was certain. Whatever had happened wasn't good, that was even more obvious. I felt my chest tighten. 'Course, I was kidding myself if I thought that would go smoothly. I knew how Logan felt about Jean and I knew how he felt about me. I could pretty much guess how he felt about the two of us together.

I stood up and placed my hands on Jean's shoulders, leaning down by her ear and whispering: "You okay?"

She nodded briefly touching one hand to mine.

I caught 'Ro watching us by the door with a smile on her face. I grinned back at her and she waved goodbye as she left.

Jean looked up at me. "This isn't going to be easy."

"Think I didn't know dat already?" I snorted. "Though I did notice that Nate didn't come gunning after me, how much did you have to pay him?"

Her eyes crinkled as she smiled. "I didn't. You don't have anything to worry about in regards to Nathan."

"Don't know about dat," I sighed, running my fingers through her hair. "But if you tell me I don't have to worry about him smothering me in my sleep I might believe you."

She was silent for a moment. "Logan knows."

The playful mood vanished as I nodded. "Yeah, I saw him hanging around outside looking more pissed off than usual. Couldn't t'ink of many reasons for it."

She sighed and her brow creased. I felt the anger swirling around in my guts. Logan had done something that really upset her.

And that upset me. "What happened?"

Her eyes flickered to meet mine. "Nothing worth talking about."

"Jeanne..."

She shook her head. "All right, it is worth talking about but I'm not ready to do it. Not now." She sighed deeply turning to me and taking my hands. "Do you have any regrets?"

I shook my head. "None."

"Maybe I should ask you in a couple of weeks," her voice was touched with bitterness.

"Hey, Green-eyes, what are you thinking here? People don't accept this with open arms and I'm gonna walk out on you?"

"I don't think that."

"What is then?"

She reached up and touched my cheek, looking into my eyes. I felt her powers envelop me. She doesn't read me, our powers don't mesh that way, but sometimes she just touches me with her mind. It's a mental embrace every bit as real and strong as the physical. "I know you don't like the way they treat you."

"Old news."

"Old wounds, you mean."

Damn, she was good. No, I didn't like it, I never did. I didn't do a thing to get anyone to think better of me but I figured that putting the time in would count for something. With some it did, with others... "I have no illusions who's more cherished by the team, Jeanne. I know there's going to be a strong feeling among the team members that I'm sullying you with my presence."

"That's their problem," she said fiercely, pulling away. "That is their goddamn problem."

"It's different for them, Jeanne, you know that. They don't have to let go." That was true, everyone else could hold onto Scott's memory and it wouldn't really interfere with their lives. It wouldn't stop them from living and loving. Jean would have suffered holding on the way she was.

"I know," she leaned her forehead against my chest. "I wish you could do for them what you did for me."

I laughed at that. "I don't think I'd be able to get away with it. Besides, you were willing to listen. The rest came later."

She pushed away and looked up at me again. Her eyes sparkled and I felt the overwhelming desire to postpone the rest of our conversation and just whisk her to bed. I also didn't relish going back up to the mansion now that the news was out. I certainly preferred to stay in the boathouse with Jean and the specter of Scott hovering faintly about than deal with the very real reactions of everyone else. At least Scott might get a chance to see that I was good to her.

"You're spacing out, cher."

I met her eyes. "I was just thinkin' 'bout Scott."

Her eyebrows lifted.

"Kinda hoping he'd think I was doin' all right by you."

A smile spread across her lips. I thought about kissing her but she beat me to it. "You're doing all right by me." She kissed me again. "Stay with me tonight, Remy. I promise to keep the ghosts away."

I looked down at her for a long time. There were still times when I was just floored by the way this had all turned out. How the hell had I stumbled into this? I tried to be a friend and a leader to this woman who had seen and lost so much and I ended up her lover. "I do believe you would."

But I realized that the ghosts didn't bother me so much anymore.